|Thanks to Peter G for the photo|
Sitting here with my feet in a bucket of ice water I’ve decided to forgo the bottle of wine and copious “I’m gutted” tears and instead have a good hard look at this race, take the positives, deal with the negatives and see what I can take to my next race at this distance. Whilst cursing a bit at how fucking cold this water is.
I was reasonably confident going into this, nervous and scared yes, but also utterly determined to “get that bloody buckle if it killed me”. Knowing that I had Graham to pace me from Chantry Post to Ditchling Beacon and then Sharon to the finish really gave me a boost as I was totally into unknown territory.
I travelled down to Winchester on the Friday afternoon, checked into my hotel and then got registration, kit check etc. done. Very handy to do this the day before and then only have to drop off my finish bag on the morning. I don’t think I’ve ever arrived at a race just half an hour before kickoff! Caught up with loads of people and then it was time to run. It was very humid even from early on but I had a schedule and I stuck to it. I was delighted to get the chance to run with my Favourite Runner Ever for a few miles, though let him go ahead when I had to stop for the first of an unusual number of pee stops.
The first half of the course is quite different to the second, lots of woods, which are very pretty but there was no air in there at all, so we were already looking forward to getting up ont tops and having a bit of a breeze blowing. First time I've ever looked forward to running the 'second' 50 miles!
Checkpoints 1, 2 and 3 came and went, with the usual fab attention from the Centurion volunteers and some delicious gingerbread biscuits from Rachel at Harting Downs. I was very glad of these as I was already struggling to eat in the heat, and ended up carrying sandwich bags of stuff from aid stations and then not even touching them. Crap, there’s still one in my S-lab *must empty out and wash.
Shortly after leaving CP3 I realised that the amount of grit in my shoes was becoming a problem I needed to attend to, more so than just stopping and emptying them out every half hour. Can’t complain about the shoes but Drymax socks may have been a mistake – too much sweating and sliding about combined with the grit/stones bit me on the arse all day and ultimately did me in. Plus I forgot to swap out the insoles. Knew I’d forget something!
Got to Cocking, CP4, and did my one and only FB post of the day. Well I had to get a cocking in somewhere. Sat here for what must have been 20 minutes in all, putting on gauze pads and zinc oxide tape. Peter G caught up with me here and we continued on up another chalky flinty hardass hill. Both of us were really feeling the effects on our feet by now and the language was mighty.
Can’t say I looked at the views much, which is a bit of a shame, but my focus was on trying to avoid the bastard stones as much as possible whilst feeling like I was running on broken glass. And boy how we prayed for some grass to run on, any little verges at all were greeted with delight. Butser Hill was an absolute dream to run down, can't remember now where that was, but ooh I'd love to have a hill like that near me, I'd be on it every day.
Can’t remember Bignor Hill or Kithurst Hill in much detail apart from they were fuckoff hills and everyone at the aid stations was lovely and attentive. Think I’m getting a reputation for my language at these things as someone remembered and commented on my rant at Southease during the 50! Peter and I were managing to keep a nice cushion against cutoffs and I wasn’t worrying about time at this stage, just keeping an eye on it.
I met up with Graham at Chantry Post and off we went. We ran on to Washington where I told Elvis he was looking sexy. Couldn’t face any food here but had a tea or coffee, something hot, and got going again. Coming into Botolphs I needed to have a look at the feet again so we sat there for a bit while I did that. Graham, bless him, actually cleaned my feet for me and re-bandaged them. Pacers are amazing!
I really struggled going up Bleeding Arse Hill, stopping several times to catch my breath. It helped a bit that it was dark so I couldn’t see the bloody thing and we got to the top quicker than I expected. Eventually got down to Saddlescombe Farm but by this point I’d had the first of a few mini-meltdowns due to the pain and asked Graham to get my bottles filled as I didn’t want to see or speak to anyone. Lisa gave me a hug and God knows what gibberish I came out with. Said hi to Kevin and then we got out of there and going again, as far as around the corner where I knelt on the grass and puked. I had way too much liquid sloshing around in my gut with nothing to soak it up. Silly girl. Some lovely blokes stopped and asked if I wanted someone to stay with me. Still surprised sometimes at how bloody brilliant runners are in a race situation.
By now the time cushion was severely eaten into due to me not being able to run or even hike fast. Graham did his absolute utmost to keep me going, checking on my electrolytes, coaxing me to eat, trying to distract me from the grimness of the feet, and we did have some laughs, but I got to a point where I was just saying “okay” to every thing the poor guy said, regardless of context. I must have been like a child to deal with, but I guess at least I wasn’t cranky (right Graham?!).
I can’t remember now exactly where it was that I decided I had to drop, maybe a couple of miles out of Saddlesore, but I knew that as I was not eating or drinking I had no chance of getting some renewed burst of energy to get me through the rest of the night if I couldn’t make up any time by even running on grass anymore and to be honest I was just sick of being in fucking pain with every single step and could not do another 8 hours of it just getting worse. Outside Pyecombe Golf Course I asked Graham to ring Sharon and tell her that I was so sorry but I was going to drop at Clayton. I couldn’t even speak to her for crying so Graham had the grim task. Then we trundled up and up what seemed the longest 2 or 3 miles of my life. I was stopping pretty often to lean on the poles and take the weight off the feet for a minute.
We eventually got to Clayton, buggered if I noticed any windmills up there, though the lights at the aid station were cool. Graham then ran over to Ditching Beacon to pick up his car, while the lovely people there wrapped me in a foil blanket, sat me down and fed me hot sugary tea. Graham then drove me all the way to Eastbourne to get my finish bag, where Nici said I could sleep in her van for a few hours and then go back to London with her afterwards.
I am glad I did that, it was lovely to see people finishing and to catch up with Roni, Paul, Natasha, Nikki etc. I got to see my FRE finish and have another chat with him. Saw the last runner come in with seconds to spare, nailbiting stuff. And then we left for London.
My feet are fucking killing me, and no doubt I’m going to be sore/stiff for a few days after the distance, but now I’ve decided to just get the fuck over my pityfest I don’t regret giving it a go. I’ll be back next year, having done a tough ‘recce’ of the course! And before that I have Skiddaw and the A100 to look forward to. I’ll get that buckle :-)
*Disclaimer - this was written on Sunday evening, with no promises of geographical / logical / actual accuracy :-)